Edited By Bo Strath
During the closing decades of the twentieth century Europe emerged as one of the main points of reference in both the cultural and the political constructs of the global community. An obsession with the concept of European identity is readily discernible. This process of identity construction provokes critical questions which the book aims to address. At the same time the book explores the opportunities offered by the concept of Europe to see how it may be used in the construction of the future. The approach is one of both deconstruction and reconstruction.
The issue of Europe is closely related in the book to more general issues concerning the cultural construction of community. The book should therefore be seen as the companion of Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community, which is also published by PIE-Peter Lang in the series Multiple Europes.
The book appears within the framework of a research project on the cultural construction of community in modernisation processes in comparison. This project is a joint enterprise of the European University Institute in Florence and the Humboldt University in Berlin sponsored by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Fund.
Chapter 10: Leningrad into St. Petersburg: The Dream of Europe on the Margins 311
311 CHAPTER 10 Leningrad into St. Petersburg: The Dream of Europe on the Margins Svetlana BOYM This chapter examines the post-Soviet reinvention of the St. Petersburg tradition and paradoxes of the nostalgia for Europe. It focuses on the imagination of urban community as a new kind of extranational regionalism, one based on cosmopolitan and aesthetic identification, not on ethnic or national belonging. “Three hundred years ago the name Sankt Peterburg sounded to the Russian ear the way Tampax, Snickers, Bounty, and marketing sound to us today”, noted the contemporary Russian writer Mikhail Kuraev, attacking the renaming of Leningrad and return to the original name of the city. It is impossible to step twice in the same waters of a city known for floods and revolutions. So the city’s “original name”, recovered in 1991, was immediately attacked as un-Russian and pseudo-European. Indeed, throughout its history, St. Petersburg has been seen as a city made of quotes, a city defined by other cities of the world. It has been called “Northern Palmyra”, “Northern Venice”, “New Amsterdam” (not to be confused with Manhattan), and “Northern Rome”, as well as “the cradle of the Revolution” and a “doomed city of the Anti Christ”. St. Petersburg was perceived as a city without roots, a global Potemkin village where the spectacle of Russian Europeanisation was trying to pass for reality. The city was dubbed a “foreigner in its own land” and “rootless cosmopolitan”. Thus, “the return to origins” in this case is a confrontation with the...
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